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Abstract

We examine the extent to which economic development reduces both a country's disaster risk and its social vulnerability to climate-related disasters. Global climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, and various types of storms. Moreover, the effects of these extreme weather events are expected to be borne disproportionately in areas of the world already challenged by underdevelopment. We find that the ability of economic development to reduce disaster risk depends on a country's income level; additional income becomes less effective in reducing disaster risk as countries become wealthier. We find that, conditional on a disaster occurring, higher incomes generally reduce a country's social vulnerability to such disasters. We additionally find that underlying political structures have an important influence over the human costs of disasters, with outcomes more favorable in democratic societies.

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